Black lawmakers on Capitol Hill slammed President Trump for an explosive tweet Tuesday that compared Democrats’ impeachment investigation to a “lynching,” conjuring a dark chapter in the nation’s history targeting African Americans.
While Democrats widely condemned Trump’s language, it was personal and hurtful for members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) called Trump a “racist” who is “unfit to serve,” while Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), a civil rights activist who founded a chapter of the Black Panthers in the 1960s, called on Trump to delete the offensive tweet.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Rush tweeted. “Do you know how many people who look like me have been lynched, since the inception of this country, by people who look like you. Delete this tweet.”
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a former CBC chairman and the No. 3 Democrat in leadership, said he wants the full House to vote on a resolution condemning Trump’s lynching comments.
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the current chairwoman of the CBC, accused Trump of igniting a “racial bomb” to stir up his base.
“So whenever his back is against the wall, the racial bomb is what we know him to [throw]. … I think it’s consistent. Why would you use the term lynching? Why would you say that? … I think [it’s] because he throws out race, because he knows it’s red meat. And he has done that consistently,” Bass told reporters.
Trump’s tweet comes as he’s grown increasingly frustrated with Democrats’ impeachment probe that began a month ago into whether he sought a quid pro quo by withholding military aid from Ukraine until it agreed to launch investigations politically advantageous to Trump. Trump has repeatedly referred to the Democratic inquiry as a “witch hunt,” but Tuesday’s comments took his rhetoric to another level.
“So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights,” Trump tweeted. “All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching. But we will WIN!”
Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), who has called for Trump’s impeachment for years, compared Trump to white supremacists in a fiery House floor speech.
“If you continue to weaponize racism and bigotry, this makes you no better than those who were screaming ‘blood and soil,’ ‘Jews will not replace us,’” Green said. “It makes you no better than those who burned crosses. It makes you no better than those who wear hoods and white robes. Do you not understand what you’re doing to this country?”
The timing of Trump’s “lynching” tweet is striking for a number of reasons.
It comes just two days before one of Trump’s most powerful critics on Capitol Hill, the late House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), will lie in state in the Capitol. A memorial service for Cummings, a former Black Caucus chairman and civil rights champion who was the son of sharecroppers, will be held Thursday in Statuary Hall. And lawmakers from both parties will attend his funeral services in Baltimore on Friday.
Trump enraged Black Caucus members and other Democrats earlier this year when he attacked Cummings’s hometown of Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”
Nor is it the first time that Trump has angered African American lawmakers by exacerbating racial tensions, like when he attacked black NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality, referred to African nations as “shithole countries” and personally attacked black lawmakers like Cummings and Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).
“The president has done this whether it was the NFL, or whether it was going after individual African American leaders,” Bass said. “And as we get ready to say goodbye to one of the giants of this House, Elijah Cummings, [Trump] chose an opportunity to attack him, and to attack his city.”
Trump’s remarks also come before he is set to speak about criminal justice reform Friday at Benedict College, a historically black college in Columbia, S.C.
Multiple black lawmakers called on Trump to retract his comments.
“Thousands of African Americans were slaughtered during the lynching epidemic in this country for no reason other than the color of their skin. The president should not compare a constitutionally mandated impeachment inquiry to such a dangerous and dark chapter of American history. It’s irresponsible for him to do so. And I hope that he will apologize,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told reporters.
Bass added in a written statement that “it would behoove” Trump to visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a memorial to African Americans terrorized by lynching, in Montgomery, Ala.
But black lawmakers acknowledged Trump’s latest effort to invoke racial terms likely won’t be the last as he faces down the threat of impeachment.
“The lynching analogy is inappropriate. And he’s trying to inflame the passions of his supporters. And we’ll hear more of that,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.).
Mike Lillis contributed.